First and foremost, let me state that I am not a fan of Christian faith-based films because they are typically poorly constructed, poorly written, and blatantly preachy. Of course, there are few exceptions, such as the genuine story behind the popular Christian song I Can Only Imagine, which was brilliantly done without the holier than thou attitude. Jesus Revolution attracted my attention because it has Joe Erwin as co-director, writer and producer. Joe was one half of the Erwin brothers who made I Can Only Imagine, so that sort of raised my expectation and interest in giving this a shot.
Jesus Revolution is also based on the true story. That of the astonishing surge in spiritual awakening throughout America during the hippie era in the early 1970s. The narrative focuses on the people who initiated the movement in Southern California. Kelsey Grammer, well known as Dr. Frasier in the long-running sitcom Cheers, is the sole familiar face in the cast. He plays pastor Chuck Smith, who establishes an odd relationship with Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie), a hippie-style preacher whom his daughter brings home one day. It doesn’t take long for the younger Lonnie to win over the older Chuck, and they quickly start bringing the hippies into the churches. In the background we are also introduced to a young man Greg (Joel Courtney), who initially gets drawn into the heavily drug influenced world of hippies. He gets disillusioned by the dangers that the drugs had and found salvation in the church movement that Lonnie and Chuck started.
Jesus Revolution has a lot of positive aspects. It tells a gripping true story and, despite its message, never makes the mistake of alienating the audience by being overly preachy. The characters are depicted to have flaws and are not faultless, making them more credible. The screenplay and performances are on pace with mainstream films, and there is a good soundtrack to elevate the mood. There are enough moments in the movie that touches the heart which is commendable. However, I just felt something vital is missing in the whole thing. I fail to see what was so special and different that these pioneers did to convince the hordes of young rebellious righteous thinking teenagers to embrace the religion. By steering clear from being too preachy, the film makers may have inevitably done the film an injustice. There wasn’t enough depth in how Chuck and Lonnie managed to convincingly preach the gospel the masses. It all seems too easy and straightforward like “if you build it, they will come”. Of course, we are looking at a fine line here between being too preachy or not. But how do you convince the viewer of the power of the revolution without actually showing us the power itself? I find myself googling and looking for the TIME magazine feature written about this for more.
Jesus Revolution has an important true story to share but unfortunately misses the opportunity to truly make a difference and create a new revolution with today’s youth population. I believe the film’s message and tale would have been better expressed as a documentary or a TV miniseries.